CEDAR RAPIDS — Yes, Shelby Hembera has thought about it.
She has wondered what it would be like, playing for a winning team from a big school.
But the thoughts are fleeting.
“Cedar Valley Christian is like my home,” she said. “I know everybody there. We’re all like a family.”
Her coach, Craig Foote, tries not to think about it.
“If I spent time worrying about that, I wouldn’t be at peace,” he said.
“But I will say this: Shelby could help any team in any class. One person can’t guard her, no matter who they are.”
A slender, 6-foot, do-it-all sophomore, Hembera ranks fourth in the state in scoring at 21.8 points per game. She accounts for nearly 60 percent of the scoring for Cedar Valley Christian, which takes a 3-16 record into Thursday’s Class 1A regional first-round girls’ basketball game at Lone Tree.
Tipoff is 7 p.m.
This is Hembera’s second year as a varsity basketball player at the small, private school (enrollment: 48 in grades 10-12) on the southeast side of town. It’s also the second year of Cedar Valley’s membership in the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union and the Iowa High School Athletic Association.
With a dangerously small roster (six girls, plus a manager that can play in emergency situations), it has been a difficult climb.
“It’s all part of the process,” Hembera said. “Sometimes it’s frustrating. But when we do win, we feel so accomplished, so proud.”
One of those instances came Jan. 29 at Montezuma, when Hembera scored five points in the final second to help the Huskies win, 40-39.
That’s right, five points in the final second.
With the Huskies down 39-35, Hembera grabbed an offensive rebound, scored and was fouled with 7-tenths of a second left. She made the free throw, then after a Montezuma turnover, she received a lob pass under the basket, scored again and was fouled again with 2-tenths remaining.
She intentionally missed the free throw, time ran out, and the Huskies were winners. Hembera had 29 of her team’s 40 points.
“Never seen anything like that,” Foote said.
Hembera has put up big numbers — 748 points and more than 350 rebounds in her first two seasons — despite defenses designed to slow her down.
“Last year, I’d see a box-and-one and I’d freak out, thinking, ’I'm not going to score,’ ” she said. “Now I know how to deal with a double-team better.”
Foote said, ”She’s grown and put on a little more muscle and size. Her ball-handling is excellent, and her high- and low-post moves are very good.
“I’ve seen a lot of players, and she’s right up there. If she wants to play in college, she’s got the tools. If she wants to just be a student in college, she’s got those tools too. She’s a great student, a very high-character kid.”
A resident of Hiawatha, Hembera would attend Cedar Rapids Kennedy if she was a public-school student.
But there is incentive for her to stay and play at CVCS, and it lies two years in the future.
Numbers figure to be low on the basketball team again next year, but a talented seventh-grade class — including Hembera’s younger sister, Molly — is on its way to improve depth and skill when Hembera is a senior, in 2014-15.
“I’ve helped coach them a little and I’ve worked with them some,” Hembera said. “They’re really good, and I can’t wait for them to be on the team.”
THURSDAY’S CLASS 1A REGIONAL FIRST-ROUND GAMES
(All games, 7 p.m.)
Valley Community (5-16) at Elkader Central (10-9)
West Central (3-18) at Don Bosco (10-10)
Central City (2-19) at East Buchanan (6-16)
Midland (5-16) at Bellevue Marquette (12-6)
Postville (1-19) at Tripoli (10-10)
Lansing Kee (10-9) at Turkey Valley (14-5)
Waterloo Christian (4-17) at Dunkerton (9-12)
Grundy Center (18-3), bye
Calamus-Wheatland (0-21) at Clinton Prince of Peace (12-10)
Preston (15-6), bye
Lisbon (7-15) at Springville (9-12)
Cedar Valley Christian (3-16) at Lone Tree (9-12)
Harmony (1-21) at WACO (7-13)
New London (7-14) at Winfield-Mount Union (16-5)
Danville (10-10) at Fort Madison Holy Trinity (8-13)
Burlington Notre Dame (18-3), bye
Ankeny Christian (7-14) at Lynnville-Sully (14-7)
Colo-Nesco (20-2), bye
Tri-County (0-21) at Montezuma (6-16)
Garwin GMG (1-19) at BGM (14-6)
Iowa Mennonite (8-13) at Keota (13-8)
Sigourney (5-15) at Belle Plaine (14-6)
HLV (3-17) at English Valleys (12-10)
Meskwaki Settlement (18-4), bye